The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: One musician’s cancellation can make another musician’s career. Just ask conductors Leonard Bernstein, Fabio Luisi and Michael Tilson Thomas; pianists Lang-Lang, Yuja Wang, Jonathan Biss and Jeremy Denk; and singer Renee Fleming among many others. | April 28, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

We are all disappointed when we buy a ticket to hear a well-known musician perform a great piece of music, only to find out that the artist is “indisposed” and has cancelled.

In some cases, of course, it can be downright ludicrous.

For example, whenever pianist Martha Argerich (below) – who was notorious for cancelling concerts – used to release a schedule of her upcoming concerts for the next seasons, some waggish critics would joke about her releasing her list of upcoming cancellations for the next season.

Sometimes it is something as simple as a scheduling conflict. That is how the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra gave us the local debut of the terrific young Israeli-American pianist Shai Wosner (below) last spring when Anne Marie McDermott had to cancel. (She will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C Minor with the WCO next March.)

But most often, I suspect it is genuine. Still, there is an upside when a performer becomes ill or sick or otherwise indisposed.

It often marks the beginning of another stellar career and gives a break to a promising artist who needs a break to advance their career or have a major debut. Just ask conductors Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas and Fabio Luisi; pianists Lang-Lang, Yuja Wang, Jonathan Boss and Jeremy Denk; and superstar singer Renee Fleming among many others who got their big break through someone else’s illness.

In fact, you have to wonder if sometimes the famous artist who cancelled wasn’t really sick at all but instead cancelled deliberately to give a younger talented colleague they admired a break in such a competitive profession. Why not? I say. Whatever works.

For example, that’s how soprano Renee Fleming (below) got to make her Metropolitan Opera debut a year earlier than scheduled, much like Leonard Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic. And there are many such stories and examples. Just look up musicians’ biographies in Wikipedia and check out their early careers.

Here is a link to a fine in-depth story, which also talks about repertoire complications and how the right substitutes are found, in the Wall Street Journal about that phenomenon:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903927204576570651872866710.html

Have you ever heard a great musician by chance and because he or she was a substitute for the scheduled “indisposed”performer who had to cancel?

Who was it and what did you think?

The Ear wants to hear.

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2 Comments »

  1. It was Jay Hunter Morris at the Metropolitan Opera last season, when he took on Siegfried on a few weeks notice. He was spectacular. Between acts during the live HD broadcast (here at the Point Cinema) Peter Gelb, the managing director, said “You own this role”.

    Comment by Jim Holden — April 30, 2012 @ 11:08 am

    • Hi Jim,
      Thank you reading and replying.
      Jay Hunter Morris is an outstanding example, an excellent example.
      He was right in front of me and I didn’t see him.
      So thank you for pointing him out.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 30, 2012 @ 11:33 am


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